During carpal tunnel surgery, the transverse carpal ligament is cut in order to release the pressure from the median nerve and to relieve pain. The recovery time after surgery will depend on a number of factors including whether the patient has endoscopic or open surgery, whether the surgery was performed on the dominant hand, and the type of work done by the patient.
What to expect after surgery
A person who has just had carpal tunnel surgery will experience minor pain in the hand, which may also feel weak and slightly numb. These feelings usually pass within two to three days, though in some cases it can take several months. The surgeon will remove the stitches within one or two weeks after surgery. If the wrist was splinted, the patient can remove it after two weeks.
Once the splint has been removed, the hand may initially feel worse than before. After surgery recovery is often 3-4 months for the wrist to recover completely. Patients should expect up to one year before full strength returns to the hand. How much strength returns will vary from person to person.
Taking the wheel: driving after carpal tunnel surgery
Driving is not recommended for 1-2 weeks after carpal tunnel surgery. Patients often feel pain or sensitivity in the affected wrist during the first few weeks following surgery. This sensation may affect the ability to drive safely. Waiting to drive for 10-14 days after carpal tunnel surgery allows plenty of time for the wound to heal and prevents stitches from coming loose. Readiness to drive varies by patient.
Getting to grips: returning to work after carpal tunnel surgery
When a patient can return to work after carpal tunnel surgery will depend on the type of surgery performed. Whether surgery performed on the dominant hand or not and the patient’s profession all factor into recovery time. If the patient has open surgery on the dominant hand, and work involves repeated wrist movements such as assembly line work, hair stylist or typing, a return to work will be in the 8-week range.
If the patient has surgery on the non-dominant hand and doesn’t have a job requiring repetitive movement, work may be resumed within 7-14 days. Typically, patients who have had endoscopic surgery can return to work sooner than those who have had open surgery.